Friday, April 22, 2005


Poetry flapdoodle

As this site was originally meant to be used to keep anyone coming by abreast on poetry news, thought I'd pass along some of the "hotter" controversies in the poetry world, for anyone who might want to get the scoop. Right now, there are three stories, all in various stages of development, that are of some moment to poets--and all of them have some real ramifications for poetry on the net. My own thinking is that poetry must engage the web more closely, both for economic reasons and for the fact that it is so conducive to the use of multiple media in presentation and collaboration in at least near real time. The net--whether conceived of as medium or channel--is an odd animal to be working with, and the reasons why it is might fairly be understood in terms of that '90's net phenomenon, the chat room. I don't figure I really need to go into any details for anyone who has made their way to this blog, but basically, the mode of communication in a chat room either bridges or falls into the gap between oral and written communication--it is both/neither, clearly written in the sense that it relies upon text, but oral in its immediacy, and it results in some interesting situations as a result. There are many, and better writers with better resources than I possess have already written books about it, but to take but one example, one cannot raise one's voice in a chat room, except to write in all caps--but even that does not allow one to interrupt what someone else is saying--something we can readily do in real life. This changes social dynamics.

Anyway, I'm not after a thesis on this stuff here, (though at one point, I'd hoped to write one detailing the effects of such on the discipline of poetry...perhaps I am writing that thesis, only it is taking a far different shape than I'd imagined...) just indicating that this is an area that interests me deeply. Beyond the more fundamental dynamics of communication over the net, there is also the question of accountability, or lack thereof, that one can use or abuse as a result of online "anonymity"--and there are many artists who are quite interested in exploiting the possibilities offered by the use of multiple persona. Two recent dust-ups in the poetry world speak directly to the set of issues arising from this aspect of internet communication, and have to do with accountability and the legal issues of the 'identity theft' we have traditionally termed plagiarism.

First, there is the strange and unusual case of, an online community, until recently anonymously maintained, devoted to "Exposing the fraudulent "contests." Tracking the sycophants. Naming names." Some of the contests and judges 'exposed' on this site have termed's efforts as slanderous, and you know, they just might be. Recently, the New York Times released an article suggesting that had closed down--but the site's up--though who knows for how long, or how the exposure of Alan Cordle, who maintains the site, will affect their tactics. There's also an April 22nd write-up on the matter at Silliman's blog that's worth the read. Money quote, as far as I'm concerned, from Silliman, is to do not with foetry specifically, but the question of the "economic" nature of poetry: "A lot of people claim that poetry is non-economic, which is a statement I understand, but which I think is more false than true. Rather, it’s an economics of extreme scarcity and subjective authority, which sets it up perfectly to be a test case for the worst possible instances of human coercion and duplicity." I'd quibble, but I have not, as yet, fully articulated my own thoughts on the poetic economy...though I do think I can say without reservation that the 'net is having a profound effect on the nature of that economy, not least in providing voices not aligned with the academic structure a vehicle by which they can reach a large audience without going into too much debt. Perhaps in a future post.

The second case is that of Amari Hamadene, an Algerian poet--or is he?--whose online body of work was recently discovered to contain multiple instances of plagiarism. Why it contains multiple instances of plagiarism is still very much a source of conjecture, with theories running the gamut from the most simple--Hamadene plagiarises--to the absurdly complex--the plagiarisms are either a ploy by which to publicize the band "Lucid Nation" or coded messages from Hamadene to his 'militant cohorts'. Who knows? Not I. But you can read Lucid Nation member Ronnie Pontiac's take on the matter here.

Finally, on a note that is more than a day late and a few dollar short, still think poetry makes nothing happen? Campus Watch disagrees. I had a link to the physical address of--I think--the author of the above article at one point, so that you, too, could send in your dangerous poems, but I can't seem to locate it right at present. If anyone reading knows the name/has a link to the blog that published that address, I'd be grateful if you'd share. In the meantime, I know I have it stored somewhere, and once I stumble across it, I'll be sure to share.

Okay, I gotta hammer out some menus today, among other things. Happy surfing. --tchitch

I just want to commend you on the use of the word "flapdoodle."
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